#40 Mississippi State Softball 2016 Preview

Mississippi State Bulldogs
Overall Rank: #40
Conference Rank: #11 SEC
Mississippi State Softball Preview
Mississippi State heads into the 2016 season with plenty of things to look forward as it's the 25th season of Bulldog Softball and they will be opening up the brand new MSU Softball Stadium, which will include hosting the SEC Tournament for the first time in program history. This new $6 million dollar stadium with 1,000 chair back seats and all of the first class amenities needed to compete in the SEC will only enhance Mississippi State’s ability to compete nationally in the sport of college softball.
2015: 36-21, 10-14
2015 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Van Stuedeman
Field Players:
Offense will not be a problem for the Bulldogs as most of the key contributors from last year’s team that averaged just under six runs a game will be back. Infielder Caroline Seitz will lead the way for this explosive attack once again in 2016. Seitz hit .318 with 15 homeruns and drove in 54 last season to lead Mississippi State in both of those categories. Utility player Mackenzie Toler will set the table for the core of the lineup as Toler got on base over 48 percent of the time last season. The speedy combination of Loryn Nichols and Kayla Winkfield will be a lethal combination to deal with for opposing teams. Nichols and Winkfield were a combined 62 for 65 in stolen bases last season and that efficiency in the running game will only make this offense even more dangerous in 2016.
Alexis Silkwood will be the ace for the Bulldogs this season. Silkwood was 26-16 with a 2.85 earned run average in 2015. The key points of emphasis for Silkwood in her growth as an ace will be to cut down the number of walks from 118 to under 100 and to get her homeruns allowed total under 20. if she can do that, she is going to make a run at 30 wins in 2016. The key to the season is going to be pitching as Mississippi State is going to have to get deeper in its rotation in order to make a run at the upper to middle tier of the Southeastern Conference. 
Who to Watch: 
Katie Ann Bailey is going to be a critical key to the success of the Bulldogs in 2016. Bailey, when she is behind the plate at catcher, is going to have to be able to lead Silkwood and freshman Cori Cooper in the circle. In addition, at the plate Bailey provides a very consistent steady hand after hitting .331 with five homeruns and 34 runs batted in last season to go along with 11 stolen bases. If Bailey can put up similar numbers this season, then that will take pressure off of the rest of her teammates to produce as much offensively.
Final Projection: 
Any questions about where this Mississippi State team stands amongst the national landscape will be answered quickly during the non-conference portion of the schedule. The Bulldogs will christen their new stadium to start the season on February 11th against Georgia Southern then after that things will pick up with the schedule. South Alabama, Baylor, Western Kentucky, UCLA, Cal State Fullerton and Long Beach State are all a part of a very difficult schedule for Mississippi State. A visit from Auburn will kick off the SEC slate, which will have trips to Gainesville to play Florida along with road trips to Alabama and Tennessee as well, which will test the Bulldogs to the hilt. In the end, this team will score plenty of runs to grind out some wins in conference play. They also could very well end up being a better team than last year by the end of the season and still win a rock solid 36 games like they did in 2015.
Projected Postseason: NCAA Softball Tournament
Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Caroline Seitz, IF, 195
Hits: Caroline Seitz, IF, 62
Home Runs: Caroline Seitz, IF, 15
RBIs: Caroline Seitz, INF, 54
Runs: Katie Anne Bailey, C/UTIL, 43
Stolen Bases: Loryn Nichols, OF, 34
Wins: Alexis Silkwood, P, 26
Innings Pitched: Alexis Silkwood, P, 235.2
Strikeouts: Alexis Silkwood, P, 216
Saves: Alexis Silkwood, P, 2
Madness 2016 Softball Recruit Rankings:
#12 Regan Green
#53 Katerria Moore
#54 Sabrina Turner